The Daily Skein

All the craft that’s fit to make.

How to Use a McMorran Balance for Fun and Profit August 9, 2011

Filed under: Spinning Tutorial — Cailyn @ 4:23 pm
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I am addicted to spinning lace yarn right now.  I don’t know why.  I’ve always been attracted to tiny crafts- I used to make little tiny sculptures from polymer clay.  Before that, I would “miniaturize” anything I learned, like “god’s eyes” (I think I was about 8 when I learned that one).  Once I got the hang of making one with popsicle sticks and worsted yarn, I started making them with toothpicks and embroidery floss.  So I guess it was really just a matter of time before I found the tiny singles of laceweight.  Before I left for Sock Summit, I finished up this pretty skein.

 

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It’s spun from a 70% merino/30% silk blend that I bought a few years back, one of my first fiber purchases!

 

Weaving Works Merino-Silk  115_5646

 

I don’t knit much lace, though, so I offered this skein to a friend who loves purple.  Since I wanted to know how much I was giving her, I pulled out my McMorran balance.  A McMorran balance is a nice, inexpensive little piece of equipment made from, basically, an acrylic box with some slots in it and an acrylic arm that wobbles.  The magic is in the calibration.  It’s calibrated to measure 1/100th of a pound.  (Metric versions can be purchased if you’re not down with the inches and ounces.)  Here’s what I did to measure my handspun (using some green Cascade 220 as the yarn, because lace yarn doesn’t show up well in photos):

 

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Here’s the McMorran balance sitting on the edge of a book.  You’ll see why it’s on a book shortly.  See how the notched part of the arm is tilted up?  That means the weight of the notched end is lighter than the solid end.  Let’s add some yarn!

 

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Cut off a 6-10" piece of the yarn you’re measuring.  The thinner/lighter the yarn, the longer the piece you’ll need (laceweight might need a much longer piece, or several pieces).  This piece is much heavier than the solid end of the arm.  You can see that the ends of the yarn are below the bottom of the balance- that’s why it’s a good idea to place the scale at the edge of a table, so that the yarn can hang freely.

 

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Cut off a little bit of the yarn, then let the scale settle back.  Is it balanced (is the arm horizontal/not tilted)?  If not, trim off another little bit.  The key here is to trim off just a tiny bit each time.  You can always cut more off, but it’s not easy to fix if you overshoot!

 

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When the arm is horizontal, remove the piece of yarn and measure it with a ruler.  Don’t stretch it out so it’s taut, but you want it to be straight.  Let’s say this piece is 6” long.  Now for a little math:

 

Multiply the length of yarn by 100.  (6 inches x 100 = 600)

 

The resulting number is your “yards per pound” or ypp.  (600 ypp)

 

Chances are good that you don’t have a full pound of yarn, though!  Divide the number above by 16 (the number of ounces in a pound) to get the “yards per ounce” or ypo.  (600 ypp/16 oz = 37.5 ypo)

 

Now weigh your skein.  Multiply the weight of your skein by the ypo.  (2.3 oz x 37.5 ypo= 86.25 yards)

 

The final number is how many yards are in your skein.  (86.25 yards)

 

The instructions are the same for a metric version, but the math at the end is a little different.  I haven’t actually found the calculation online anywhere, but the balances come with the formula.

 

So, in the end, it turns out that I have about 400 yards of my handspun laceweight.  Not bad!

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Spy Games December 17, 2009

Filed under: Knitting Projects,Musings,Sewing Projects — Cailyn @ 11:50 pm
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I would like to tell you that my mysterious long absence was due to a secret mission for the CIA.  Sadly, there was no spying or espionage involved.  I’ve been very busy, mostly with cleaning and organizing and not knitting.  I’m not really enjoying the knitting project that I’m working on right now but I am determined to finish it.  I’m sure you know how that feels- it makes the project drag on so much longer than it should even if you’re knitting just as fast as normal.  I have also been weaning off my antidepressant and, well, it hasn’t gone well.  I’m tired all the time and irritable and I haven’t felt much like writing.  I’ve been working on this post for four days!  It would have been much more interesting if I were a secret agent.

 

While I wasn’t spying for the CIA (wink wink nudge nudge), I finished plying this handspun:

 

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I bought the fiber right after my spinning class at the Sock Summit.  It’s dyed with real indigo.  Have I written about this before?  I can’t remember.  It’s 100% Blue Faced Leicester from a Verb for Keeping Warm.  The woman who sold me the fiber at the Summit was really helpful and friendly and I’ll be buying from them again!  I spun this on the handmade bottom-whorl spindle from the Sock Summit too, using a mostly short-draw worsted style of spinning.  I r.nsay mostly because this is very much a beginner’s yarn and I played a little fast and loose with the fiber.  I didn’t sample the fiber and I didn’t stop very often to see if what I was spinning matched what I had already spun.  Well, it turned out mostly consistent, although some sections are almost thread-thickness.  I had originally intended to make this a three-ply yarn so I was trying to spin the singles pretty fine.  By the end, though, I decided to just make it a two-ply yarn.  I didn’t have a very consistent amount of twist in the singles and I was sure that they were over twisted.  But when I plied them, I didn’t have to put in a lot of twist to make a “balanced” yarn.  This led to some problems plying… to get the yarn to look and feel nice, I had to over-twist during plying; the “balanced” yarn has hardly any twist at all in it.  I started over-twisting about halfway through.  Maybe I’ll knit something with it… maybe it’ll just be pretty yarn to look at.

 

One of the bedrooms in our house has a French door with glass panels instead of a regular door.  This room is technically my studio but that hasn’t stopped me from littering the rest of the house with projects, yarn, beads, and other detritus of the crafter.  When we have multiple house guests at once, the addition of an air mattress magically turns this room into an extra guest room.  As you can imagine the glass door is a little problematic from a privacy standpoint.  Since this situation only comes up a few times a year, the usual solution is a sheet hung over the door.  Efficient but ugly to say the least.  So I grabbed some over-the-door hooks, two short curtain rods, and some fabric (on sale!) and made a curtain for the door.

 

It was a very simple project.  I had originally intended to make the curtain a little wider and use two different fabrics, one on each side, but then I got lazy.  Possibly because I had already worked on one very time-consuming sewing project already that day.  I simply folded the fabric in half, topstitched various parts and hung it on the door.  Somehow the bottom is crooked despite careful measurements.  I’m going to pretend that the curtain is perfectly straight and it’s the door that’s the problem.  As an added bonus, the fabric looks really cool when the light from the room is shining through it.  And yes, the curtain is just a hair short width-wise.  Again, it’s the door’s fault.

 

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Other than that, there’s been the cleaning and culling of stuff (not the stash of course, that just got a major enhancement a few days ago.)  Books and old clothes have been donated, decorations have been put up, small kitchen disasters which resulted it pot roast gravy going everywhere have been resolved.  You know, the usual holiday stuff.  Also, this strange furry object on top of my yarn has kept me from knitting too:

 

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I made yarn! September 22, 2009

Filed under: spinning — Cailyn @ 3:20 pm
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I’ve now spun on a wheel and on a spindle.  While I was very frustrated at the beginning of the spindle class, it eventually made much more sense to me than spinning on a wheel.  There are so many parts to the wheel, so much happening at once, that I couldn’t really conceptualize what was going on.  It was easier on the spindle, once I got past the silently screaming phase anyway.

 

The kit that I bought for my spindle class came with a few ounces of fiber.  I used up most of the roving in class, but had a surprising amount of combed top left.  I like the top better anyway.  So, I spun that up over a week or so, getting better all the time.  Then came time to ply.  I completely forgot about making a plying ball, and put each ball of singles into a mug to keep them from rolling around and started plying.  It was very frustrating and I don’t think I’ll ever forget to make a plying ball again.

 

This is my two-ply, mostly worsted-spun yarn!

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I think it came out pretty well!  There’s hardly enough to do anything with, so I think I’ll tuck it away as my first real finished yarn.

 

After that, I found some of the white top that had been separated from its brethren for no apparent reason.  So I spun that and tried my hand at chain-plying.  That was really hard.  The single I spun was very “energetic” (the polite term for “way too overspun”) and that makes chain-plying much, much harder since the single keeps trying to strangle itself.  It’s kind of like wrestling with cling wrap.  When it worked, I loved the technique.  When it didn’t work, I wanted to burn the whole darn mess, except that it’s wool and wool doesn’t burn well.

 

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Worsted-spun chain-plied skeinlette.

 

For comparison, here’s all three of my yarns together.  Wheel-spun single, spindle-spun two-ply, and spindle-spun chain-ply.

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I do believe my drafting has gotten much better!